Metropolis - Part 1

STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul C. Villarete - The Freeman

They say you have to look from afar if you want to see the whole picture. This is so much truer in the case of cities. Sure, we notice all of those high-rise buildings sprouting in Cebu City and the metropolis surrounding it. I used to travel to Manila more often and I tend to count all the high-rise buildings here when the plane heading back home passes above the city as it turns to land in Runway 04 of Mactan airport. Year after year the number increases which to many is a source of delight. Surely, we have a fast-growing city and metropolis.

This is a far cry from the time I first lived here in 1978 as I entered my first year in college. That time, the highest building was Diamond Tower --actually the Ludo and Luym Building at corner Osmeña Boulevard and Plaridel Street. A little over 50 meters in height, it had a restaurant on its top (15th floor) which actually revolves slowly, giving you a view of the entire city. The first SM store in the country (it was not in Manila) was located at the ground floor. Called by its original name, Shoe Mart, it really sold shoes.

Slowly, along the decades, taller buildings overtook it as more floors were added and slender edifices raced up to reach higher into the sky. And then one day around two months ago, I stood on the banks of Canjulao in nearby Lapu-Lapu City and, lo and behold, I saw Cebu City as what it looks now --a growing metropolis joining others across the globe. From afar, you can see the rugged skyline full of tall buildings, one covering another, it’s difficult to distinguish and identify each one. I squinted my eyes trying to look for the Diamond Tower of yore but couldn’t find it --it was lost in the forest of gleaming edifices shooting up skywards trying to outdo each other on which could claim the distinction of being the tallest.

And the skyline is no longer that of Cebu City alone. From afar, it’s just a wide swathe of tall buildings, you can’t identify where Cebu City ends, and Mandaue City begins. Lapu-Lapu City has its own rising skyline, too, easier to distinguish as it is separated from the mainland. But from the air, you can see the metropolis for what it really is, a growing colony of people building their own version of a concrete jungle and inviting the consequent issues and problems associated with “development”.

Whether we should be happy with this or not is a question we have to face eventually. People are thrilled with buildings mushrooming here and there and with a skyline getting similar with the big cities of the world, but are our lives getting better, too? It might be a tricky question to answer, with the multitude of causes and effects of urban growth. But with growth comes the urban ills, and we are not exempted from that. In fact, we have been feeling the effects for some time already. Unfortunately, there seems to be more wrong than right which we must correct if we want a better future.

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